Fall is the time of year for beautiful foliage,pumpkins, hot cider, and snakes.
Snakes? What do they have to do with fall?
Throughout the year we are contacted from people who are concerned about finding snakes inside of their homes. During the fall, however, these calls increase. Why? What happens in fall that makes it more likely to find a snake inside of your home?
Two phenomena occur in fall to increase the low probability of finding a snake inside your house:
1. In most of the United States, snake eggs typically hatch in September and October. Therefore, a surge in the population of baby snakes occurs in the fall.
2. Snakes and other creatures are searching for hibernation sites. In the wild, these sites might include caves, crevices, and hollow cavities under rocks or fallen trees. Human dwellings are very appealing to animals wanting to hibernate. Animals ranging from Asian stink bugs to black rat snakes will often make use of accessible human homes to keep cozy during the winter.
So what is a homeowner who prefers not to share their home with wildlife to do?
There are many “treatments” touted online and by pest control companies that are ineffective and sometimes even dangerous that you should avoid. Chemical products labeled to keep snakes away are waste of your money. Mothballs are also not going to discourage snakes and may even cause health problems in humans.
The only effective treatments for deterring snakes from your home are physical.
You need to seal your home from invading animals. Any hole or space into your house, even as small as a pencil, can allow mice, snakes and other creatures access to your home.
Start in the attic. Check the vents and be sure they are securely covered in fine mesh hardware cloth (hardware cloth is like a really tough metal screen that comes in sheets or rolls). Search the perimeter of the attic for any spot allowing light in – this might be an access point that needs sealing. Remember, rat snakes can climb straight up a brick wall to gain access to your warm attic for the winter.
Walk the perimeter of your foundation, both inside and outside, checking for access. Common access points include: the area around wires, plumbing or cable entering the home, doors, windows, and vents.
Check the basement and/or crawlspace as well. If animals can gain entry into either of these areas, they can probably gain access to your home.
Caulk, weather stripping, steel wool, plumber’s foam, and hardware cloth can all be used to seal up your home.
If the idea of handy-man work or the prospect of climbing into an unfinished attic does not appeal to you, there are a few pest control companies that specialize in wildlife exclusion and will remove any wildlife they find and repair your home so animals cannot get back inside. When contacting an animal exclusion company, be sure to get references and check with at least two companies. Remember, if they want to use a chemical snake deterrent, do not use that company. You can find animal control companies in the yellow pages under “pest control” or by googling “animal trapping service” and your location.
While they do not belong in your home; remember, snakes are part of both the rural and urban environment. They play a very important role and are as important to the health of the environment as the birds, butterflies, and other wildlife more commonly associated with a healthy ecosystem.